Sadler’s Wells, London
May 14, 2019
Benoit Swan Pouffer’s debut season as Artistic Director attracted an audience eager to see where he would be leading the company. Two established heavy weights with the excitement of a newcomer sandwiched between, was a safe bet but didn’t say much about the future direction. However, it promised a good evening of dance that despite the commitment and talent of a company on top form, didn’t fully deliver.
PreSentient (2002) is vintage Wayne McGregor, matching Steve Reich’s music in brilliance of phrasing and structure. The movement is fluid with quick fire salvos of extreme action. The dancers revelled in the technical challenges, especially in the innovation of his duets that ignored any suggestion of rules to accommodate a heady mix of partners. Designed with quality simplicity, when performed at this standard, it is always a joy to watch.
Marion Motin comes from a background of fashion and music. Her Rouge was a mixed bag of bits and pieces from those other worlds, but offered little in the way of interesting choreography. There was playful glee as dancers gambolled on a fog-bound stage, falling and recovering, discarding the maverick items of clothing that had marked out their individuality.
Settling down to more practical dancewear the dancers settle for en masse clubbing, to rather drab music, occasionally livened up with flailing arms. The attention-seeking lighting, by Judith Leray, provided a constant flow of ideas, colour changes and action. Neon strips traversed the stage and running lights ignited at intervals while the strobe lighting went on for an achingly long time. Finding ‘our real selves’ as the programme notes suggested, proved a rather tedious self-serving exercise. Rouge looked too much like a rerun and haven’t we been there before?
It is impressive that Rambert can still afford live musicians. For Hofesh Shechter’s In your rooms, the musicians were installed in a raised onstage box where they were revealed or concealed in the shifting light, adding greatly to the atmosphere. This was his breakthrough work, dating from 2007, and it has all the elements we have come to expect in a Shechter work. The movement is tightly bound, high voltage, with pulsing shifts that works so effectively in tight groups.
The work is personal, Shechter’s voice, dropped in like sound bubbles in a comic strip, makes sure you get the message. The bumper-sticker phrase on the message board feels horribly patronising and could go, however. The lighting draws the eye like a director’s lens, building tension in conjunction with blasts of sound. It’s a winning combination but one that would benefit from judicious editing.
Pouffer comes with a fine reputation in searching out new talent. With so many exciting choreographers around, I hope he can make the match and forge a distinctive identity for Rambert.